Nikki - The Chinese University of Hong Kong

B. Business Management / B. International Tourism and Hotel Management
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I had no elective subjects left by the time I went on exchange, which meant I had to take four marketing subjects to count towards my major. If you have electives left it will make things a lot easier for you when it comes to subject selection, as you’ll have the extra flexibility that I didn’t have. Having said that, people warned me of how stressful it was to get into a subject, however, I found if you went to talk to the director of your relevant faculty they were more than happy to slot you into a class. I took a class called Marketing in China, which was really interesting and it will help me to further understand the diversity in consumer behaviour around the world! The academic grading system at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is very different in comparison to UQ. They grade students based on a bell curve system, which encourages a very competitive and sometimes cutthroat environment amongst the students. I found this to be the most challenging part of adjusting to a new university environment and I am quite relieved that UQ doesn't adopt the same system! Additionally, they grade you heavily for attendance (one of my subjects was 30% for attendance) and to get these grades you actually have to participate in every class discussion.

Personal experience

Going on exchange to Hong Kong was one of the best things I have ever done. I didn’t expect to make so many lifelong friendships and to change my perspective on life so greatly. I am so much more confident to get out there, meet new people and try new things. I managed to travel to Taiwan, Malaysia, Macau, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam whilst I was on exchange and I had the time of my life. I did manage to sneak some study in amongst my travels but its so tempting to take off every weekend when Asia is on your doorstep! Having spent a semester in Hong Kong I can say that it has inspired me to work hard in my final year of university so that I can possibly join the lucky people who get to work in this bustling metropolis!

Accommodation

Initially, I was very apprehensive about my accommodation choice due to some online research and speaking to past students. I had elected to stay in International House, which doesn’t have the best reputation for being the cleanest or newest building- but looking back I wouldn’t change my choice if I had a second chance! International House is the best place to be for an exchange student as it is where most other international students will be staying too. You get your own apartment which you share with about 10 other people and it’s a much more social way of living than in one of the other colleges. You get a decent sized kitchen to share with your flatmates and I found that I did a lot more cooking than my other friends who had to share a small kitchen with an entire floor of people. If you are in I-House 1 or 2 it is a bit out of the way from the main campus, however, the bus stop is right outside the building and the buses run very regularly. One thing I can say about CUHK is that their bus system is very efficient and saves you a lot of mountain climbing!

Budget

Hong Kong is not the cheapest place to live and often I found prices to be on-par with Australian prices. However, having said that the food on campus is really cheap and if you choose to shop at the local supermarkets rather than the Western ones then you will save yourself a lot of money ($10 for one Australian mango was a bit pricey in my opinion!). I would definitely recommend you to get an Octopus card as soon as you can as you will use it almost every day on the MTR (the best way to get around Hong Kong) and you can also use it in some shops to pay for food and other items. I found I spent very little on nights out as in Hong Kong they love a good ladies night, which meant that ladies could drink for free all night (sorry to all the males!). However, it is important to keep an eye on the time as after 12 am you won't be able to get the MTR home and will spend hours convincing a taxi driver, who only speaks minimal English, to take you from Hong Kong Island back across to CUHK.

Professional development and employability

I found that my biggest improvement from studying in Hong Kong was my oral speaking and presentation skills. The local students are seasoned experts at standing up in front of the class, sans palm cards or notes and presenting their work with an insanely eye-catching PowerPoint playing behind them. I learnt how to feel comfortable enough with my content that I didn’t need to read it word-for-word; I could just stand up and convey my ideas. This is going to be a really useful skill for my final year and also when it comes to my career. I have also learnt how to converse with a huge variety of different cultures and made friends from every corner of the globe.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was definitely the people that I met and the new cultures that we experienced together. I didn’t expect to slot so seamlessly into life in Hong Kong and I can attribute that largely to the group of friends I had by me every step of the way. My experience would not have been half as amazing as it was if I hadn’t met them.

Top tips

  • Here are a few of my top tips for anyone considering going to Hong Kong:
  • Go to Hong Kong!!
  • Take every opportunity to travel that you can. Especially in the beginning of the semester where you will have very little assessment and lots of free time! 
  • Don't be put off by how far away CUHK is from central Hong Kong. Whilst we liked to complain about the long MTR rides and the struggle to get a taxi home on a night out, we were lucky to be studying in such a peaceful and beautiful part of Hong Kong. We got the best of both worlds!
  • Do a junk boat trip one weekend with all your friends, you go to some beautiful places and it's such a fun day out! 
  • Don't be shy to put yourself out there and meet new people, everyone is in the same boat as you and will welcome you in with arms wide open! 
  • Be prepared to exit your comfort zone on several occasions whilst on exchange. Whether it be with the food you have to eat or the toilets you are faced with, just take it as it comes and it will make you appreciate what you have at home so much more!
Nikki - The Chinese University of Hong Kong